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Breaking It Down: The Core Issue of the NFL Labor Talks

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Breaking It Down: The Core Issue of the NFL Labor Talks
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Commissioner Roger Goodell

As the possibility of an NFL lockout appears more and more conceivable by the day, many fans still lack a basic understanding of what the issues are really about. However, these fans are not to blame; the situation is quite complex and poorly covered by the media.

Basically, the NFL labor disputes center around one thing and one thing only: money.

And, as we all know, money is a very powerful bargaining tool. Unfortunately, for the NFL, it also creates greed.

That is not to say that there are no other factors that come into play, but money is the driving force behind the entire disagreement. As the majority of fans know, the NFL owners and NFL Players Association are currently involved in a heated debate over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

In 2008, the owners opted out of the former CBA upon the completion of the 2010 season. It originally expired on March 3, but has since been extended another week.

Thus, the two sides are left with their current predicament.

The NFL owners want to add an extra billion dollars to their immediate revenues, in order to cover increasing costs. That way, instead of the players receiving around 60 percent of the league's remaining $8 billion, they would receive that same percentage of approximately $7 billion instead.

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While many players and their salaries would be unaffected, rookies and free agents would likely see a significant decrease over time.

Other issues include the owners' desire to extend the season to 18 games and the players' increasing concern about the increasing amount of injuries in the game.

According to widely accepted economic principles, the firm and the labor force argue over two fundamental aspects of employment: wages and levels of employment.

The bargaining power of each side determines who will have more influence over the outcome. The owners have attempted to increase their bargaining power by threatening to lock out the players, but in reality both sides have significant bargaining power.

NFL players can afford a lockout, because they know that when the league returns most of them will still have secure jobs, and the owners are not afraid because of the certainty that NFL fans and advertisers will come back in bunches, regardless of a lockout.

It creates a terribly inefficient gridlock of greed and selfishness, especially on the owners' part. Thus far, NFL owners have refused to reveal their accounting books and prove the financial burden of the current CBA, and this has led to incessant finger-pointing.

Of course, one may wonder if owners really deserve the blame when they are simply acting in the best interest of their business. However, they often neglect the impact their actions will have on others, mainly the players.

An NFL lockout would have far-reaching implications for the American economy.

The players' union has attempted to lobby the United States Congress, pleading that each NFL city could potentially lose as much as $160 million, due to the work stoppage. The lack of games from this multi-billion dollar industry could also cost TV networks billions of dollars in revenue.

Numerous stadiums and NFL organizations employees could experience layoffs and salary cuts, not to mention the loss of revenue that will be incurred by countless small businesses that rely on the NFL for profits (unfortunately, the guy who sells hot dogs outside Gate E every Sunday has little bargaining power).

If the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell can't figure out a middle ground within the next week, it is almost a guarantee that there will be no 2011 season.

This would have a profound effect on countless people and businesses in our already struggling economy, but I suppose that requires too much compassion for a few billionaires to comprehend. 

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